A Chic London Suburb
Some might describe West Hampstead as the poor relation of Hampstead, as it only came into existence properly in the early 19th century. Two hundred years on and West Hampstead is one of London’s most thriving social and cultural centres, every bit as affluent as its more sedate neighbour further up the hill. As with so many London suburbs, it’s the railway which turned the original settlement, a tiny village called West End, into the exhilarating commercial and residential centre it is today.
At the turn of the 19th century, West Hampstead was still West End, a farming village with 200 residents. The area was rural, with the odd mansion house, farm workers’ cottages and one or two pubs. Most residents either worked on the land or were in service to the local gentry. A local foundry offered a few more employment opportunities. The arrival every summer of the fair was a great treat enjoyed by the villagers. Lasting for three days, it attracted many professional showmen after its humble beginnings of stalls selling just gingerbread men and small toys. The fair got out of hand and in 1820 it was stopped when a mob of around 200 men rampaged through the village, beating and robbing anyone in their path. Ten men were tried — three were hanged, and the rest sentenced to deportation to Botany Bay, Australia.
The first railway station, West End Station, opened in 1871 and with it came the building of the surrounding streets that make up West Hampstead today. The station is now West Hampstead and the line is the underground’s Jubilee line. Another station, West End Lane, now forms part of the Thameslink service into Euston and also carries the name West Hampstead. The Victorian streets soon had gas lighting and the houses electricity. It became the local commercial centre, with shops delivering customers on horse-drawn buses.
The development continued apace in the late 19th century, to the point where residents started to worry that all green space would be lost. Just two remained — Fortune Green and West End Green. When a builder put up hoardings around West End Green ahead of the development work, up to 200 men tore them down and set them on fire. The issue was resolved when the equivalent of the local council, the ‘Vestry’, bought the land so that Fortune Green along with West End Green, which also managed to fight off development, remain as valuable open spaces today.
Detached homes in West Hampstead sell for an average price of *2.1 million. Semi-detached houses cost less at around *1.5 million. Terraced West Hampstead homes go for just over *1.1 million and the average price of a flat is slightly above *500,000. As with many other areas of London, location is everything. Proximity to those lovely green spaces, the main shopping streets and the tube and mainline railway station will affect the price of West Hampstead homes. The type and age of the building will also have an effect. However, despite the popularity of West Hampstead homes, prices are lower than in the suburb’s upmarket neighbour, Hampstead Village, even though people with homes in West Hampstead can easily reach the world-famous Hampstead Heath and the delightful village centre up on the hill.
Homes in West Hampstead are therefore highly sought after and there is plenty of choice, from Victorian terraces, many of which have been divided up into spacious apartments, to red-brick mansion houses. Chomley Gardens is perhaps one of the most famous mansion blocks. It was built in the 1920s. There are 165 apartments, many with their own gardens, and the grounds offer two tennis courts and a children’s playground. Three- and four-bedroom flats sell for between *945,000 and *1.2 million. The block doesn’t offer smaller properties.
There are other mansion blocks to choose from when looking for homes in West Hampstead. Close to Fortune Green, Alfred Court is an art-deco block, newly refurbished to a very high standard. The block has unusual curved balconies which sweep around the corner from one street to the next. These blocks offer generous living space and a three-bedroom property would start at around *900,000.
West Hampstead homes in mansion blocks on the main routes through the suburb are slightly less expensive. A two- or three-bedroom flat in a block above a row of shops could cost between *600,000 and *800,000. A property in a converted Victorian or Edwardian terrace would be less, especially for basement or garden flats. Priory Road, Greencroft Gardens and Lyncroft Gardens are examples of desirable roads with character period properties that are highly sought after. Prices for smaller flats in converted Victorian properties start from around *185,000. This price would buy a studio close to the shops in West End Lane. The price depends on whether the property offers any garden space. A one-bedroom flat on West End Lane in a converted house would cost around *375,000, whereas a two-bed property in Fawley Mansions, complete with a roof terrace, would cost around *660,000.
Not all homes in West Hampstead are in Victorian buildings. Such is the demand for houses in West Hampstead that some exciting new-build homes are now being offered. The Pulse Apartments just off Finchley Road offer a two-bedroom stylish living space with a private terrace or balcony for around *999,000. The block includes a concierge service and secure underground parking. West Hampstead Square on West End Lane is a new block built around a new square. With prices for a generous one-bedroom apartment starting around *500,000, it’s a rare opportunity to live in a London square with delightful cafes and shops while benefiting from the trappings of a modern apartment block with landscaped communal gardens, a residents’ health club and an on-site management team.
Rental prices for flats and homes in West Hampstead again depend on the kind of building and location. A two-bed flat in a red-brick period block on Gondar Gardens would cost around *900 per week. A two-bed mews house in Goldhurst Terrace would rent for around *850 per week. A three-bed maisonette in Fordwych Road, close to Maygrove Park, could cost more than *1000 per week.
For larger homes in West Hampstead such as semi-detached and detached houses, there is plenty of choice. The premium roads, where the large houses can cost *3 million, are around Crediton Hill and Honeybourne Road. Properties in a series of roads with Greek names such as Agamemnon Road and Achilles Road are also highly sought after. A three-bedroom, four-storey Victorian mid terrace close to West Hampstead tube would be marketed for around *1.3 million. A modern mews-style property would be a similar amount. A double-fronted Edwardian terrace with four bedrooms would sell for around *1.25 million. The very largest top-end properties start at around *4.5 million.
Rental prices for houses start at around *1000 per week, depending on the size and the type of property. A five-bed Edwardian or Victorian terrace would rent out for around *1500 per week. A more modest three-bed terrace would cost around *2000 per calendar month.
West Hampstead is a popular place to live, being just four miles from central London. It’s well served by both the underground and mainline rail services and driving into the centre isn’t too difficult on the A41 Finchley Road. Access to the start of the M1 motorway is easy, so reaching Heathrow and Luton airports and other destinations such as Brent Cross Shopping centre is straightforward.
The main retail centre on West End Lane is a lively place for a night out, with many restaurants and bars. During the day it has all the shops on hand to make life easy. There’s a good selection of caf*s with outdoor seating on West End Lane, Mill Lane and Broadhurst Gardens. Many of the shops and eateries are independent, offering something different to visitors.
Homes in West Hampstead have easy access to many open spaces, not least the famous Hampstead Heath with its famous swimming ponds and wonderful walks. Primrose Heath and the excellent sports facilities of Regents Park are not far away. Fortune Green and the Grange offer local play facilities. The nearest public sports centre is the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre on Adelaide Road, which offers a competition-sized swimming pool, a sports hall, squash courts and a wide range of classes. There are also a number of private health clubs locally and golfing facilities at the historic Hampstead Golf Club. There is an attractive clubhouse in the middle of the course which is set in landscaped parkland.
West Hampstead is also good as far as local schools are concerned. Their high standards make buying homes in West Hampstead a popular choice with families. There are two Church of England primary schools to choose from: Emmanuel in Mill Lane and St Luke’s in Kidderpore Avenue close to Finchley Road. The non-religious Beckford Primary is also a popular choice. Fee-paying options for children living in West Hampstead homes include St Margaret’s for girls aged 4 to 16 and the University College School, which takes boys from the age of 7 up to 19.
The most popular state comprehensive school is Hampstead School in Westbere Road. It’s a high-achieving school that does well in the national league tables.
Being a buzzing area, with plenty of desirable property, West Hampstead has had a number of famous residents from many different areas of our cultural life. Actors living or who have lived in West Hampstead homes include Angela Griffin, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson and even Dirk Bogarde. TV stars on the list include Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry and Johnny Vegas, and then there’s a string of pop stars such as Joan Armatrading, Slash from Guns n’ Roses and Dusty Springfield.
Art and culture are important to local people, so the Hampstead Theatre is well attended. It puts on a great selection of performances throughout the year. There are several other local theatres nearby as well. There’s a Vue Cinema in Finchley Road showing all the latest box office hits and the art-house Everyman Cinema. West Hampstead Library in Dennington Park Road runs events for the public to get involved with too.
As a place to live, West Hampstead is a great choice for families, couples and single people. It retains a ‘village-like’ feel yet it is very much part of the city, with good access to other parts of London and the rest of the UK. While it may seem to those who’ve never been to West Hampstead that it’s not as nice as Hampstead proper, the cheaper property prices mean that people can afford to buy West Hampstead homes with more character, space and flexibility.